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At the Rink: Panthers at Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets' scoring woes could force coach John Tortorella to change his forward lines Friday against the Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET; FS-F, FS-0).

The Blue Jackets have scored one goal in each of back-to-back losses and no more than two goals in four straight games.

The Blue Jackets had an optional morning skate and Tortorella would not reveal what the changes might be. He did talk about how he believes that success in the offensive zone starts at the defensive end.

"I just showed some clips of us defending well, stopping in our end zone, making sure everything is OK structure-wise and break out together," he said. "You have a much better opportunity to create offense that way."

Columbus has scored 23 goals in going 6-4-0 in the past 10 games, but left wing Brandon Saad said the emphasis remains on keeping the puck out of the net.

"We want to keep playing well defensively and not cheat for offense because that tends to hurt us defensively," he said.

Saad has gone seven games without a goal but Tortorella knows that his top scorers could break out at anytime.

That's what he's hoping for from Nick Foligno, who ended a 20-game goal drought at Montreal on Tuesday. The captain has two goals after an NHL career-high 31 last season.

"You hope something happens for Nick after he scores a goal," Tortorella said. "It comes from within the players. They score a goal, it tends to relax them.

"This happens to a lot of teams. It's a tough League to score in so you hope they feel good about themselves and make some plays and it goes in the other direction for them as far as confidence-wise."

Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson said he senses the goals and wins will come.

"We've been playing the right way," he said. "In order to score goals you have to play well defensively and good defense leads to good offense. We're definitely getting good opportunities as of late."

Getting a good start against Florida won't be easy. The Panthers have won four in a row, are tied for first in the NHL for fewest first-period goals allowed (12) and are 8-1-0 when leading after one period.

Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov will play after missing seven games with a lower-body injury.

“He’s one of our top two or three defensemen. He’s a top player on our team,” Florida coach Gerard Gallant said.

With the Panthers winning four straight, including 2-1 at the Nashville Predators on Thursday, Kulikov was given maximum time to recover.

“He could have played last night but we gave him the extra day,” Gallant said. “We didn’t want him playing two in two.”

Kulikov replaces Dylan Olsen.

“All our guys are playing well on the blue line,” Gallant said. “When you’ve got to take someone out it’s not because of bad hockey.”

Gallant said backup goaltender Al Montoya will start after Roberto Luongo made 32 saves against the Predators.

Friday is a homecoming for Gallant, the Blue Jackets’ coach for 142 games from 2003-07, and forward Derek MacKenzie. He played 269 games for Columbus from 2007-14.

McKenzie got his second and third goals of the season Tuesday against the St. Louis Blues.

“Derek’s been a guy who works hard for us, competes for us every night and he’s a good leader,” Gallant said. “It’s good to see guys like that, fourth-line guys who kill penalties, block shots and do all the tough things, get rewarded by scoring some goals.”

Here are the probable lineups:


Brandon Pirri - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr

Jonathan Huberdeau - Vincent Trocheck - Reilly Smith

Jussi Jokinen - Dave Bolland - Connor Brickley

Quinton Howden - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton

Brian Campbell - Willie Mitchell

Erik Gudbranson - Aaron Ekblad

Steven Kampfer - Dmitry Kulikov

Al Montoya

Roberto Luongo

Injured: Nick Bjugstad (upper body), Alex Petrovic (foot)

Scratched: Logan Shaw, Dylan Olsen


Boone Jenner - Ryan Johansen - Nick Foligno

Brandon Saad - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Matt Calvert - William Karlsson - Scott Hartnell

Gregory Campbell - William Karlsson - Kerby Rychel

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Ryan Murray - Kevin Connauton

Justin Falk - Andrew Bodnarchuk

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Injured: Fedor Tyutin (nose), Cody Goloubef (jaw), Rene Bourque (upper body), David Clarkson (back), Jared Boll (foot), Markus Hannikainen (shoulder)

Scratched: Dalton Prout, Michael Chaput

Status report: Chaput may play. He was scratched Tuesday after being recalled the day before from Lake Erie of the American Hockey League.

Who’s hot: Bobrovsky has allowed two goals or fewer in eight of nine games. … The Panthers have killed 14 straight power plays in the past five games. Columbus has failed on 19 straight power plays. … Atkinson has four goals and six assists in 10 home games, and at least one point in each game.

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